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The Turning Point - Chapter 1 + Extracts

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The Turning Point

Subtitle: Only a Little Into the Future

 

1 Judy

 

The Foundation saw their assumptions and adopted rules regarding the abduction of girls as perfectly validated. This was due to the perceived success that had come with the first few examples. Basing their approval on a small set of victims was a big mistake, however, and one which The Foundation would not normally have made. With Judy, they had made a major error as a result. In their plan, all the girls were to self-present in Los Angeles by applying for false ads seeking applicants for possible work, not obviously in acting, which would have been too suspect, but merely to try out for minor promotional material and advertisements. It was an early weakness. They had recognised this and sought to compensate by checking the girls’ backgrounds, and this assured them that nobody was likely to come looking for them when they vanished, but it left other matters unexplored. This was the case with Judy. A first hint should have come when she showed the ability to actually perform in her commercial. That should have been the warning that there was potential trouble ahead. However, The Foundation was based on a need-to-know basis and this secrecy had sometimes permitted the premature acceptance of the imperfect because the guiding principles could never be questioned from below. And, by Judy, they fell as a result.

All that they had found out about her family was correct, but it was not a good guide as to how it had formed and shaped Judy. Now, this is generally true and that should have been recognised and allowed for by The Foundation.  She had been surprisingly understanding of both parents when they went through escalating levels of immoderate behaviour before finally divorcing. She had one brother who was in jail in Illinois, but everyone knew the reason for that and sympathised and blamed Chicago. Her mother had stayed behind and remarried a drunk and had joined him in his recreation. They ran a liquor store which was being wiped out by a new twenty-four-hour supermarket. She recognised the mother as weak and eternally chasing fantasies but thought that she herself was not the same and decided that she had no need to be determined to change. Her father, in times of trouble, escaped. He had fled south to the heat where he managed a trailer park In Florida for snowbirds who could not afford the retirement villages. It was obvious to her that an element of this had been passed down to her, but she decided that in some circumstances it was the thing to do and that in her place in that obscure town on the edge of Michigan, facing at best the chance of a job of repetitive monotony for life, it was the appropriate response. She had come to LA because the changing fashion in the current place for taking flight to was slow to arrive in her corner. On arrival, she found it a tawdry, dangerous and divided place where she struggled to keep out of having to live in the bad neighbourhoods and could only afford to be a tourist in the good ones. She persisted through doggedness and had had a series of jobs not too much different from her previous prospects back home. She could just afford a ten-year-old car and an apartment shared with three other girls. It was in an area that was not quite a sink address but which was slipping over the edge.  It was the three girls that were important to her. Men were not at all frequent in her life as she was very difficult to woo and treated them with amiable detachment when they thought that they should be taken seriously. Whether the seriousness was that of the self-regarding stud or a case of an all-round inflated ego, she would quietly laugh at them in a slightly patronising manner, and there was no need of further dismissing their attention. She had decided within a few weeks of arriving in town that this was not the life she was wanting, and was constantly and actively planning her next escape. There were all kinds of schemes for this under review at any time: going back to college, changing jobs or changing cities. She was just determined that she was not going to resolve herself to things or get out of trouble under a man.  What The Foundation had missed was that the dream of stardom, while it might have been the root of LA’s appeal in the past, was not something that Judy gave a thought to. LA was just a big city in the sun where everybody led the Californian lifestyle as she viewed it from Michigan. She did not give Hollywood a thought, and it was only one of the girls she shared with who had seen the ad from Panomnes Productions and dared her to apply – which of course she had.

She worked long shifts in a chain restaurant which was not enough yet to suppress her frothy attitude to her existence. So, when an invitation to Panomnes Productions arrived, she was transformed and thought that this was the way out she was seeking. She drove to the place with a friend from the apartment called Rachel, who was suspicious and deeply mistrustful of all good fortune arriving out of the blue. They found the place well out of town in the desert and were duly impressed by the size of it and the organisation on display. Such was Judy’s showing at the trial that they called her back soon after and had her do a real commercial for a local chain of nail bars. The Foundation had reached that level of sophistication. The commercials were being done for real by then and not for dummy clients. This was another layer of avoiding distrust. Even Rachel was convinced.

Judy innocently babbled on about these developments afterwards, but it was in such a way that her friends accepted it as her good fortune as she never appeared to brag about it. However, she was from that moment, set up as the next Foundation target for disappearance.

Sample Extracts

1 For Judy, the new plane was obviously foreign and had notices and announcements in English and some other language. A dinner soon arrived and more wine on request and she was entirely convinced by these fascinating new events that her life really was changing. She was fascinated by the concept of sleeping on a plane and when they dimmed the lights, she lowered her business-class seat and fell into a contented sleep. He looked over her shape under the thin airline blanket and felt no surge of lust but regarded her entirely as an exquisitely beautiful form. Beyond her, the window revealed a bleak corner of Labrador in a perpetual grey twilight. There were patches of snow and countless still frozen lakes. He wanted to fly for ever and cross endless tracts of tundra or storm-flecked glimpses of an unendurably cold ocean, while warm and content next to his Judy in the almost murmuring engine noise of the dim plane’s night. 

2 There was perhaps a vanishingly short, whining crescendo before the first shot, apparent in a vastly decelerated perception, passed through the rear door on the driver’s side with a surprisingly low tearing sound as if to signify that such a penetration was no trouble whatever. It then ripped and tore its way along the line of the front seatbacks before encountering the opposite door pillar, which it almost severed with a metallic screech. It passed between Judy and James at a deflected angle and, robbed of much momentum, it ricocheted off the tarmac and now, with its trajectory rendered chaotic, it tumbled over on itself making a strange whooping noise before thrashing through a hedge and audibly clattering to a halt below it in the yard of the hotel. James knew what it had been and grabbed Judy’s hand then pulled her violently towards the hedge while roaring, “Run!” Judy could not but follow and almost fell as she was dragged after him but, in that time, she too knew what had happened and her legs began to actively propel her. David did not yet know. No complete idea had time to form, but a vague notion came to him that the car had let him down in some catastrophically mechanical way and that James’ reaction was related to it. The second shot was higher but still off to the left and penetrated the passenger window before exiting through the opposite door and thudding into the bank at the base of the hedge. David at last began to appreciate the situation and moved around the back of the car but was only slowly accelerating, as if he might still be wrong in his new appreciation of the situation.

3 “Is this Side-Martin – is this the son of a bitch who was trying to put me in the house of fun?” she asked very quietly.

“Said-Maartens,” corrected James, to show him that they knew who he was and with the hope that he would think they knew much more about him. A look of dread began to deflate Said-Maartens’ face when he heard his name.

Judy turned on him cowering in the ditch, and her voice changed to a strange screaming mixture of rage and exultation at being able to get to grips in person with some part of what had recently taken over her life.

“You are from them. You are the one who tried to send me abroad as a hooker. You probably got rid of Greg,” and here she paused before resuming even louder, “but he was a son of a bitch too.”

Said-Maartens climbed out of the ditch and started a retreat with the dread now manifested as outright horror as he decided they knew much more than they did.

Judy bent down and took up a handful of sizeable road-stones and aimed one at his head. It struck his shoulder with an audible thud.

“Get the hell back to LA and tell whoever dreamed up this whole fucking shit show to leave me alone.”

4 When it was almost dark, he returned and found her on the sofa. He did not bother to ask what she had seen as he knew she paid no attention to anything if the TV was on. He offered her a glass of wine, but she got up abruptly and said she was going to bed. She caught sight of how she was behaving and returned it a little to normality by observing the by then conventional peck of the cheek but still disappeared leaving a chill after her. James again thought she was worrying about Said-Maartens’ visit and did not feel able to offer any comfort on the matter as he had no idea what would follow it himself.

Judy lay in bed in the over-sized pyjamas she had borrowed from him. Her mind continued its churnings, although she did not come up with any new aspects to be outraged about. Instead, she very slowly began to think of how they were probably all a load of crap. She had not completed this process when she fell asleep.

She awoke around four o’ clock and found her mind made up without having to go through any further formal evaluations. She got up and, on reflection, took off the pyjamas and went quickly through the cold corridor, lit by the first grey of dawn, to his room. There she crept into his double bed beside him without waking him. She slowly thawed out and he was still not awake. She then nodded off contentedly. A couple of hours later, she came to and heard him still quietly making little puffing sounds. She nudged him gently and he wakened. He looked at her, perplexed, and she returned his gaze with a look that was resolute. He thought for a minute that she had become so scared at the prospects ahead of them that she had come to his bed rather as a little child would do. He reached out for her and found her naked and saw that he was utterly wrong.  He rolled slowly towards her, accepting that she had at last decided this. The question as to why would wait until later, but then he thought that it did not really matter anyway.

5 “Give me the fucking number,” was his obviously unthought-out demand.

It was far too much for Said-Maartens and his bowels once more let him down. 

“9703,” he whispered in a disarmingly honest voice and this, together with the little stream of liquid shit trickling out over Said-Maartens’ shoe, was taken as a guarantee for the number given and the thief was gone. This had happened for all in the street to see but nobody paid any attention, and nor did they when Said-Maartens slowly collapsed in despair into his own emissions with his back resting on the filthy and unusable ATM machine. The mugger was from the other side of the Bay and at once took the BART to Oakland. It was there that he attempted to use the card and found it was retained by the machine and was useless. They had even managed, with their almost limitless connections and favours due, to cancel Said-Maartens’ account. So, it was on the east side of the Bay that they set their hunt for Said-Maartens and that allowed him to escape them.

6 “However many there were outside, there is one less now – and we have another gun.”

He took position, tried to recall some firearms training from ages before, and started to take aim uncertainly at whatever presented itself from the shrubbery.

Out there, it became apparent that they were on their own and that the third man was not coming back. They now counted four guns firing back. The boss was losing blood and starting to get weak. They began to rehearse in their heads the various plans they all had for this kind of occasion. The cabins in the woods well away from civilisation or the false identities they thought they had prepared. Just then, a shot from the house hit home. It got the remaining soldier in the abdomen. He was not as restrained as the boss and fell back into cover and cursed loudly.

“Motherfucking cocksuckers!”

It did not turn him to revengeful fury, however, but just put retreat firmly in his mind. Without asking the boss, he started back towards the car. The boss had no option but to creep after him. When they came close to the car, they had to be out in the open and all four thought of taking more shots, but none did. With the boss driving, the two of them sped off. Both were losing blood and getting weaker. They got on the freeway and pushed the car as fast as it would go, not thinking straight and not in fact thinking much at all, but merely as an acknowledgment that they were now fleeing their previous lives. They did not see the truck in front changing lanes and went into its rear corner at a relative speed of more than 60 mph. They leapt off sideways with the car now beginning to tumble rapidly as its ordered forward momentum was converted to chaotic rotational energy. They did not hit anything further in the inside lane but rotated right over it and the crash barrier and went down into a small ravine in a ball of flames. The car went spinning on up the opposite slope some way before rolling down to the bottom again and setting the scrub on fire.

7 When they got to Panomnes Studios, there was no sign of life. The main gate was closed against them and there were no cars in the parking lot and not a movement behind any of the windows. A bored security guard of late-middle years and an expression of habitual weariness wandered out to them to turn them away and, while they were making a measured appeal to be let in, he recognised Judy and the usual scene ensued. It was wearying for her by then, but she played up to it this time to negotiate entry.

“Well, seein’ as how you’re the chick changin’ the worl’ right now, why the hell don’t I just let you go in,” he announced.

“Don’t go stealing anything now,” he warned with mock seriousness, “but I don’t reckon you could get very much in there ’cos all them arrogant motherfuckers already loaded everything worth a damn into trucks and took off over the horizon – it seemed to me like their asses was on fire.”

They wandered through deserted studios, with most of the stuff gone and wires left hanging out of the walls. Judy located the studio where the nail-bar ad had been filmed. It brought a new level of verity to the episode for James. They wandered into the large office where outside, the water had been left running through the formal garden to disappear into the sand as normal.

 

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